It starts with a climb away from the freeway, deeper into the pines, then plunges almost a thousand vertical feet into Oak Creek Canyon through a series of tight switchbacks. If you like to ride on the edge, do yourself a favor and do not follow a motorhome down this road. Instead pull off at the overlook park to your left just before the road drops into the big cut at the top. It’s worth the stop and is a nice little spot for a picnic.
I’m pretty sure the rocks at the top of the canyon are the same stunning red as the ones at the end, down in Sedona, Arizona, but you’d never know, since they’re covered in trees. After the epic switchbacks, the road follows Oak Creek along the bottom of the ravine, and as the elevation drops, more and more of the red rocks start poking out of the many trees. Down in Sedona it’s mostly the proud rocks standing with some trees for adornment, but about halfway down when it’s still an even mix is a place called Slide Rock State Park.
This is the swim I’d been looking forward to all day. Luckily, it was still a toasty 80-something in mid-afternoon. We attempted to roll in the gate to the park, thinking that motorcycles that take up a quarter of the space of a car might score a discount off of the $30 parking feeand were disappointed. Luckily for us there is plentiful free parking along the road. As you might imagine, it fills up quick and requires a bit of a walk, but motorcycles can cram into the spaces cars can’t, so we didn’t walk more than mile, about the same as the walk from the pay lot.
Slide Rock, as you might imagine (or see from the pictures), is a spot along Oak Creek where water washes in shallow (or not-so-shallow) pools over moss-covered sandstone, forming a natural series of waterslides and swimming holes. As a bonus, this section of the canyon is one of the most scenic, so it’s an ideal spot to take a break swimming and sunning in cool, snowmelt water. Leo volunteered to watch our stuff (and check out the girls in bikinis) while we slipped, slid, and swam down the stream. In the interest of packing light, I’d only brought my boots. Try not to hold it against me.
Swimming always stokes the appetite, and as we’d been living on gas station snacks since breakfast, ours were on tilt. We rolled into Sedona and quickly selected Savanna’s Steak House off a Yelp.com recommendation (aren’t smartphones cool?). We were a little early for dinner, having arrived during happy hour, but since the cook had just gotten in, and we were the only ones in the joint, they fired up the grill early. A very accommodating crew, and the food was excellent.
Sedona is one of those places that looks like it should have been a National Park, but homesteaders beat them to it. The town nestles into the pines and red rock outcroppings, surrounded by natural beauty. Unlike some places where private citizens beat the government to a place of beauty and barricaded it all off, Sedona settles into its surroundings harmoniously, the views equally good from just about anywhere in town.